Woman’s Life-Saving Efforts Leads To Friendship, Connection 16 Years In The Making
Aug 20, 2021, 2:16 PM
LEHI, Utah — A woman’s life-saving efforts at a golf course led to a life-long friendship and the discovery of connection 16 years in the making.
Of all the swings Dirk Anjewierden has taken at the Thanksgiving Golf Club over the last 20 years, one stands out because of what happened immediately afterward and because of whom he has met since then.
The day was Aug. 19, 2020. Anjewierden teed off at hole No. 7, a par-3. At least that’s what he’s been told.
“They said I turned around and said, ‘I don’t feel right.’ And I went down,” he said.
His friends weren’t sure what happened initially. One thought he might have fainted and lifted his legs up. But it only took a moment for them to see that Anjewierden wasn’t breathing and his heart wasn’t beating.
“I have no recollection of anything that happened that day,” Anjewierden said. “So, everything that I know of was told to me.”
One of his friends started CPR. Another called 911 and started driving back to the clubhouse to look for a defibrillator. But help was closer than they knew.
“It was probably one of the hottest days,” said Kelly Aquinas, a server at the golf club who had just finished her rounds with the beverage cart.
“And I’m exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally,” she said.
But then she heard a voice, “as if someone were sitting here next to me. I heard someone, something — which I know was the spirit — say, ‘Go around the course one more time.’”
Aquinas didn’t hesitate. The nursing school student drove back around the course until she came to hole seven where a group had gathered.
“I said, ‘I’m certified in CPR. Can I take over?’” she said.
Aquinas estimates she went at it for 15 minutes until first responders arrived. Medics told her if he survived it would be because of her efforts.
“I wasn’t thinking about anybody else but Dirk and I knew what I had to do,” she said. “I was not the only one there. I knew I had heavenly help.”
Anjewierden was taken to Mountain Point Medical Center. But that night things deteriorated, and medics put him in a helicopter and flew him to Intermountain Medical Center. The first thing he remembers was waking up from a coma one week later.
“The nurse said to me, ‘Dirk do you know how long you’ve been in the hospital?’ I just remember laying there thinking, hospital? Why am I in the hospital? I had no idea what was going on,” he remembers.
The diagnosis was myocarditis. Doctors didn’t know if he would make it.
“They said if he does wake up, we expect there will be significant brain damage and he will probably never be the same.”
For two more weeks, Anjewierden struggled in the hospital, slowly learning to walk and live on his own again.
It was months later that the general manager at the Thanksgiving Golf course called Anjewierden and asked if he wanted to meet the woman who had responded to the call to help in those initial, critical minutes.
He described the meeting as, “surprisingly emotional. But it was wonderful. She literally saved my life, along with my two buddies, they saved my life.”
“I never knew I could love a stranger as much as I love Dirk,” Aquinas said. “I just love him.”
Over the next several weeks, Aquinas met Anjewierden’s five children and 13 grandchildren. And they learned they were even more connected than they knew.
“One of my sons said to Kelly and her mom, ‘Where are you from?’ And they said, ‘New Jersey,’” Dirk said. “And he looked at them and said I’ve been to your house for dinner.”
Sixteen years earlier, Anjewierden’s son had served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in New Jersey. And it was during his mission that he met the Aquinas family, including an 8-year-old girl named Kelly.
Anjewierden’s son went home and found a photo of him with Aquinas and another child. On the back of the picture, he refers to Aquinas as his best friend.
“All these beautiful connections … that doesn’t happen,” Aquinas said.
“Here we are 16 years and 3,000 miles later and just randomly Kelly’s the one who steps in and helps save my life,” Anjewierden said, adding, “I don’t think anybody thinks it’s random.”
Anjewierden still comes to play and visit Aquinas at work regularly. His heart isn’t what it used to be but, for the most part, he lives a normal life and is back out on the golf course in Lehi once a week.
“I never get tired of seeing him. He makes me so happy,” Aquinas said. “I just saw it that I was an instrument. I had to be here. And I’m so glad I listened. I mean, what if I didn’t? And I hate to think about that. But it could have been a reality.”
“I’m lucky to be alive and I’m grateful to be alive,” Anjewierden said.
Anjewierden still can’t remember the details of that day one year ago, but he’s never forgotten and is frequently reminded of the miracle that came from it.
“There are so many instances of miracles that have happened throughout this process that it can’t be random. Can’t be an accident,” he said.
Anjewierden has done what he can to say thank you to Aquinas. As the executive director of a long-term care association, he worked with other members to dip into their nurse scholarship fund to pay for one of Aquinas’ college semesters.